Jewelry retailers sparkle online

For Rhode Island-based Ross-Simons, a 56-year-old multi­channel merchant and jew­elry retailer, competing online has become essential as catalog costs have gone up and the Internet has grown as a sales channel. Today, re­cently engaged couples can design their own wedding rings on its Web site, which also offers free overnight shipping on engagement rings. The online channel now accounts for 50% of the 13-store chain’s sales.

Not long ago, most were uncer­tain how high-ticket items such as fine jewelry would fare on the Web. However, consumers are increasingly comfortable buying diamonds and precious metals online.

Targeting younger shoppers

Over the past two decades, Ross-Simons was primarily a cataloger. However, the company’s focus has been shifting towards the Internet in an effort to lure younger shop­pers towards buying bridal jewelry.

“The younger shopper is more like­ly to shop online and [our] goal is to bring them on as a lifetime shopper,” says Terry Matthies, VP of informa­tion technology at Ross-Simons.

Ross-Simons isn’t alone in embrac­ing the online channel:, Helz­berg Diamonds and, just to name a few, are all actively chasing the same customer. While the bankruptcy proceedings of well-known jewelry retailer Fortunoff and skyrocketing gold prices have dark­ened the jewelry industry’s mood, experts predict online growth in the sector will continue.

“There’s huge growth in online shopping in the luxury goods seg­ment, including jewelry,” says Kevin Lindsay, director of marketing at Mercado, an e-commerce solutions company that recently worked with Ross-Simons. This is especially true as online retailing has advanced with the use of sophisticated tools such as highly intelligent search, side-by-side product comparison and product zoom and rotation.

Working with Mercado, Ross-Simons has made changes to its Web site to build out its bridal site, segment the product selection by boutiques similar to how its brick-and-mortar stores are merchandised and improve its on-site search. Ross-Simons is sup­porting these steps by taking a com­petitive stance on diamond pricing.

While these efforts are meant to enhance the experience for bridal jew­elry shoppers who go online seeking a specific item, the company is also making it easier for the marketing department to create Web promotions and experiment with e-mail.

The Ross-Simons catalog is also being adjusted, including a cut in circulation due to the rising costs of postage and paper. However, Mat­thies says the company believes there is a need to stay in the mail to both support the Web and cater to those who don’t shop the Web.

Web sites can boost store traffic

Jewelers also recognize the in-store traffic potential of their Web sites. Day’s Jewelers, with six New Eng­land stores, relaunched its Web site before the holiday season.

A new feature enables shoppers to click on a button to set up a time and specific store where he or she would like to view a particular piece of jew­elry. Day’s Jewelers will then confirm the appointment and ensure that the piece of jewelry is in the appropriate store at the appointed time.

“Day’s Jewelers understands what makes its shoppers tick and builds its stores and Web site around that,” says Tiffany Riley, SVP of marketing at MarketLive, which worked with Day’s Jewelers on the relaunch. Web sales have since doubled and average purchase size has increased 40%.

Seattle-based Ben Bridge Jewel­ers, which has 78 jewelry stores in 12 states, is using Internet advertising geo-targeted to men and women in specific cities, to drive traffic to its bricks-and-mortar stores and to spe­cial landing pages on its Web site.

“The company looked at what is most convenient to the consumer, which in this case was a very tar­geted e-mail campaign,” says Steve Davolt, VP of marketing at Ben Bridge. He adds that the biggest change has been how many people now gather information about buy­ing jewelry online. “Research is done before coming into the store, which is huge,” he says.

Ross-Simons’ “biggest goal” right now is to integrate its CRM platform with the Web site “so that all cus­tomer touch points are integrated,” says Larry Davis, VP of market­ing at Ross-Simons. He envisions the company sending a customer a birthday reminder e-mail, who can then browse online and make an in-store appointment. It will also enable Ross-Simons to do more product-specific e-mails based on customer purchases.

“The company has done some test­ing on this and clearly it works,” Davis says. “Now the question is [how to fit it] into our future strategy.”

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